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Week of June 21, 2002

Week of June 21, 2002

The U.S. and China This Week

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DOMESTIC:  Internet Café Crackdowns Expand Around Nation

Over the week China has expanded its clampdown on unlicensed Internet cafes after a deadly fire killed 25 people at the Lanjisu Cyber Café in Beijing.  The fire is considered Beijing’s worst in more than 50 years and the high death toll, of mostly students, was due to locked exits and bars across the second-story café, trapping the Internet users inside. Two teenage boys have been arrested for starting the fire using gasoline to ignite the blaze. The boys, 13 and 14 years old, stated they decided to commit arson and seek revenge after the owner of the café wouldn’t allow them to enter and surf the web.

As Beijing’s Mayor Liu Qi warned the owners of thousands of illegal Internet cafes that they would be “severely punished,?authorities in Shanghai and Tianjin city announced stiff new measures governing such cafes.  While access to the internet is growing more popular among China’s younger, more computer savvy generation, thousands of illicit internet cafes have popped up all around the nation offering people an environment to send e-mails, chat on-line, and play computer games.

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DOMESTIC:  Hong Kong Initiates Sweeping Government Changes

A government plan to restructure Hong Kong’s administrative accountability by creating a new layer of political appointees was voted on and passed late Wednesday night.  By July 1, fourteen new “political officials? will assume key portfolios, formulate policy, and report directly to Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa.  Tung’s nominations for the new positions have already been sent to Beijing for approval, which has irritated several opposing voices who believe the sweeping changes will ultimately mean more control for Beijing over Hong Kong.

Supporters of the new government structure believe it will increase accountability in a civil servant environment that is currently insulated from any fallout from poor policy decisions.  Tung has also openly commented that the current civil service resists changes and takes too long to implement his ideas.  Critics, however, feel that without popularly elected individuals in power positions, true accountability will be never be attained.

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DOMESTIC: Over a Hundred Dead in Mine Blast

A gas explosion ripped through the state-run Chengzihe Coal Mine Thursday morning killing a total of 111 coal miners.  The mine, located in Jixi city, Heilongjiang province, is a fairly large operation with 5,500 workers and produces some 1.1 millions tons of coal annually, according to the Xinhua news agency.  China’s State Administration of Coal Mine Safety has ordered the closure of ten coal mines under the Jixi Mining Administrative Bureau.

Though the general manager of the mine was reportedly inspecting work underground during the time of the blast, questions continue to linger over safety precautions and again highlight China’s abysmal record where thousands of miners die each year.  Authorities have waged a series of high-profile campaigns to close unsafe mines, but are unable to halt the thousands of illegal operations that are often protected by corrupt local officials and willing workers who are attracted by the relatively high wages.

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The U.S. and China This Week
The U.S. and China This Week

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Last updated: 17 January 2001

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